Did God Hardening Pharaoh Damn Him? Well No! Romans 9:17-18

As mentioned in my previous article on Jacob and Esau (Rom 9:10-13), Calvinists use Romans chapters 9-11 as the undeniable evidence of Calvinistic soteriology, defending both unconditional election and reprobation. Regarding chapter 9, B.B. Warfield says, “It is safe to say that language cannot be chosen better adapted to teach Predestination at its height.”[1] As I demonstrated, while the passage regarding Jacob and Esau does show God’s sovereignty, it has nothing to do with salvific election and reprobation, Calvinism’s doctrine of unconditional election. The same is true with regard to Pharaoh. Continue reading →

The Five Reasons for Church Discipline

I have led churches to practice church discipline for over thirty years now, and I do not see the need for church discipline to be any less today than in years past. If anything, the need has increased.

Church discipline can be understood as the biblical attitude and actions of the local church that enable her to preserve her submission to the head of the church in holiness, fellowship, testimony, mission, and doctrinal purity, with the purpose of maintaining a conducive atmosphere for following Christ and experiencing His presence and power. Church discipline includes the following purposes: redemption, correction, protection, purification, and justice. On a practical level, I would further distinguish between non-formal and formal discipline. Non-formal includes all aspects of the biblical teaching and practical application of church discipline up to public involvement of the full church body in either seeking repentance of the sinning brother or sister or removal from fellowship.

John Calvin said, “As the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so discipline forms the ligaments that connect the members together and keeps each in its proper place. Whoever, therefore, either desires the abolition of discipline, or obstructs its restoration, they certainly promote the entire dissolution of the church.”[1]

Thinking about church discipline in our undisciplined age is daunting indeed. However, the church must live out its faith in every area prescribed by the Scripture; she must live it out in the most difficult and unpopular areas if she expects to be faithful to the Lord of the church and taken seriously in the battle for the souls of man and the American mind and soul. Dr. Francis Schaeffer said it succinctly; “In an age of relativity, the practice of truth when it is costly is the only way to cause the world to take seriously our protestations concerning truth. Cooperation and unity that do not lead to purity of life and purity of doctrine are just as faulty and incomplete as an orthodoxy, which does not lead to a concern for and a reaching out towards those who are lost.”[2]

The first reason for discipline is redemption. Redemption includes either being instrumental in someone in the church coming to saving faith (since we do not know if a person requiring such is actually a Christian or not), restoring a person to the fellowship of the church, or spiritually rehabilitating a person. Redemption is the reason most often cited for exercising any form of discipline. Unfortunately, far too often this is the only reason given to justify the use of discipline. When redemption becomes the reason for discipline, rather than a reason, the whole concept of discipline is obscured and excused into non-existence.

Although making redemption so prominent in defending discipline tends to make the idea more palatable, the backlash occurs when discipline does not result in repentance and redemption. However, if redemption is viewed as being one of the biblical reasons for discipline and if redemption does not occur (which is often the case), then discipline can still be appreciated for what it is beyond its redemptive aspect.

Redemption is a wonderful and biblical reason for God’s discipline, and it is based on the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and can be found in a number of passages relating to discipline (Matt 18:15–20; 1 Cor 5:5; Gal 6:1). God desires the lost to be saved and His people to be redeemed from a path of sin or rebellion and wanton destruction (Ezek 33:11). God’s discipline always begins with a desire to redeem and show man his evil way so that man will turn to God and be redeemed. The law of God does this well (Gal 3:24).

The second reason for discipline is correction. God’s holiness and righteousness are the basis for corrective discipline. Corrective discipline is designed to correct wrong thinking or actions and is related to redemptive discipline in that it seeks to correct our thinking and behavior, which will result in a closer relationship with God. However, unlike the redemptive aspect, the person is not necessarily in willful rebellion against the will of God, although he could be. “The goal of chastening is not mere outward conformity to established standards, but an inner commitment of the heart and will to obey biblical mandates because it is right to obey.”[3]

Parental discipline demonstrates this point well. Parents are constantly correcting their children for behavior that often the child does not know is wrong or does not understand why it is wrong. Thus, the parent disciplines in order to teach the child the right conduct. The parental aspect of corrective discipline lucidly demonstrates the love that is involved in discipline, and it clearly models the love that motivates all biblical discipline. Further, corrective measures often precede redemptive measures; if they are successful, redemptive measures become unnecessary.

In the church, corrective discipline can be exercised in a diversity of ways such as counseling a young Christian that is engaged in activities that are contrary to his new life in Christ, biblical preaching, one-on-one discipleship, as well as other aspects of church discipline. One of the greatest means of corrective discipline in the church is biblical preaching. When we exchange biblical preaching and equipping the saints for orations on the most faddish psychological postulate of the day, an essential means of church discipline is lost to the church. Each time that the Word of God is delivered, it affords us the opportunity and mandate to bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).

The third reason for discipline is protection. Christ seeks to protect His people and work from those who constitute a threat to them. This is in contrast to the redemptive and corrective aspects, which maintain a primary emphasis on aiding the person carrying out the wrong. The protective aspect shifts the emphasis to the people that might be harmed (Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 5:5; Titus 3:10). There still exists a desire and maybe even an effort to redeem and correct the perpetrator, but that is no longer primary since they have demonstrated a recalcitrant attitude; their aberrant behavior is now a menace to the fellowship and mission of the church.

In order for a local church to maintain a spiritually safe and orderly environment, there must be a means of dealing with those who resist correction or redemption and thereby pose a threat to others and the raison d’etre of the church. Sometimes the one committing a moral sin may not be fellowshipping in the body, whereas, the divisive and doctrinal deviants are always working arduously and deceptively (Rom 16:17) at sowing seeds of dissension and heresy. Those who refuse the call to redemption or correction must be removed to protect the church, as they were in the Old Testament (Deut 21:18–21).

Sometimes the danger to the church is a sin that is both spiritually lethal and illegal. This type of sin would include things like child abuse or an inappropriate relationship between an adult and a minor. When the sin is both a spiritual and legal issue, it must be handled both spiritually and legally. That is to say, all of the steps of church discipline that are employed in dealing with flagrant unrepented of sin that is not a legal issue must be followed as well as immediately calling the legal authorities. These can and should be initiated and followed through on simultaneously.

The protection aspect of church discipline includes taking appropriate measures to safeguard the spiritual and physical well-being of the fellowship of the local church. While it may be impossible to prevent all spiritual or physical harm to the body of Christ, a comprehensive understanding of church discipline does comprehend the implementation of preventative safeguards. Safeguards include things like monitorable membership requirements, seriousness about spiritually equipping the saints, commitment to all aspects of church discipline, background checks for people working with children, and checking references of those employed by the church.

The fourth reason for discipline is purification. Discipline for purification is similar to protective discipline in that it protects, but it is dissimilar in that it seeks not only protection from those who seek to harm the fellowship but promotes growth in purity. It is true that if a community is not protected, it will experience a purity meltdown, but merely protecting it does not guarantee the community’s advancement in purity. Purity has to do with becoming more Christlike (Eph 4:15). Purity is moving toward the glory of the image of God and away from the sinfulness of man. The choice to move toward purity produces a godlier atmosphere. When sin is tolerated, it has an inevitably degrading impact on the purity of the community. Minimizing the seriousness of sin results in more sin being tolerated, which eventuates in a loss of desire for purity and ultimately even knowledge of what true purity is.

Paul warns the Corinthians of the danger of winking at sin (1 Cor 5:6–7). This does not refer to perfectionism, but rather maintaining a conducive atmosphere for the body of Christ to grow in holiness (1 Pet 1:15–16). This requires both the protective and purifying aspects of church discipline.

Far too often, the church’s lack of will to exercise biblical church discipline has diminished her ability and desire to pursue purity. Some would say that the lack of desire for purity in the church diminishes her will to exercise church discipline. In either case, the demoralizing result is the same. In churches without discipline, corporate purity becomes at best a heavenly abstraction and at worst a worn-out cliché, which disfigures and cripples the society of believers since God intended purity to be an experiential reality of the church community.

The final reason for discipline is for the sake of justice. The church is to be a place to experience the love, grace, and forgiveness of God. That does not mean that the church is to be a morass of injustices, or malicious or malevolent injurious behavior in the name of grace. While it is true the church needs to model grace for all to see and experience, it is to be God’s grace that does not spurn or ignore doing what is right and righteously legal.

For example, those in the church that commit sins and break the law, such as child abusers, should not be discovered by the probing eyes of the media. The church should never try to cover up such under the guise of “protecting the church” or other such misguided ideas. For in the end, they dishonor Christ, damage the reputation of the church, and obscure the clear teaching of Scripture regarding God’s demand for justice in this life, which if spurned, will be experienced in hell.

Hell is the eternal discipline or judgment of God exercised upon all who willfully and finally reject His grace. This discipline does not emphasize the idea of correction or redemption, for by this time that has been sufficiently rejected. This discipline does incorporate the last two reasons, protection, and purity. The final judgment of God must happen in order to afford eternal protection for the new community of heaven and an environment conducive to perfect security and purity. Even in the church, some must be removed because of the rightness of it regardless of whether they receive redemption or correction. We need not look for those whose actions demand such, they will surely arise and force us to compromise Scripture or remove them (Acts 20:28–30; Jude 4).

For more information on the biblical justification for church discipline and practical steps in implementing church discipline see my book, Undermining The Gospel: The Case and Guide for Church Discipline

[1] Marlin Jeschke, Discipling the Brother (Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1972), 32.
[2] Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy: God Who Is There (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 197.
[3] Robert E. Clark, Joanne Brubaker, and Roy B. Zuck, Childhood Education in the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 303.

Church Discipline Requires a Tender Heart – Love Not Legalism

A biblical attitude is crucial to the whole process of church discipline. If the attitude of those implementing discipline is not right, then what God designed to be a beautiful act of selfless love is transformed into an ugly act of power, even if all the other instructions are followed to the letter. The offspring of that evil may shortly surface as a disuniting and judgmental spirit in the fellowship, or it may lay dormant until the next attempt to lead the church in discipline and then surface with a vengeance.[1] Continue reading →

Where is God’s Temple Today?

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)

The church in the New Testament has replaced the sacred Old Testament temple. The New Testament says that Christ’s body is a temple (John 2:19-21), the universal church is a temple (Eph 2:20-21), the individual Christian’s body is a temple (1 Cor 6:19), and in this verse the local church is a temple of God. The you is plural in this passage, signifying the corporate local body of believers. Consequently, every local New Testament church is a temple of God. Continue reading →

Dr. Patterson’s Counsel to Pray for My Enemies

Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5:44). We all know this verse but actually doing this or even knowing someone who regularly prays for their enemies is quite another matter.

Several years ago I was experiencing one of the most difficult times of my ministry. Some people were causing great harm to the church I pastored. As the pastor, my hurt was deep. Most pastors know the pain that comes from watching people we love turn and begin to attack us and do things that harm or even destroy the flock. It can cause anger, bitterness, depression, and even cynicism in the heart of the most dedicated of shepherds.

As I was leaving a meeting during this time, Dr. Patterson approached me. I was not aware he knew of my painful situation. His words helped me immensely. Not by psychologizing my plight or a pep talk of clichés, but rather he spoke directly from the Scripture. How he advised me to handle this situation were some of the most difficult words I could have heard.

He told me to pray for my enemies. He encouraged me to get down on my knees and pray for them before our heavenly Father. He said God might work in their lives and bless them. He told me this was his practice. He said there is a level of intimacy with our Lord Jesus one experiences while on his knees praying for his enemies, persecutors, and those who want to destroy him, an intimacy that cannot be experienced without following Jesus and praying for the very ones who seek our destruction.

Though I well knew the Scripture Dr. Patterson was referencing, his admonition helped me see it more practically and personally. For I knew, as leader of the resurgence, Dr. Patterson had many enemies. I knew he personally felt the human emotions that come with even contemplating such an act, and how one must die to self to seriously enter into such communion with our Lord. Knowing he had done this many times helped me have the faith and humility I needed to pray for people who hated me, for those who hurt my family and the church I love.

I am so grateful for his counsel and example of praying for those who seek to destroy us. I have experienced this intimacy with Christ on many occasions, and I have counseled others to handle their detractors in the same manner. I desire to be faithful in praying for loved ones and those with whom I have fellowship, but none so much as those who seek to harm me. Even as I write this article, God has brought some to mind who have done me harm; thankfully, by only his grace, I prayed for them.

Jesus commanded us to pray for them, and he practiced what he taught when he prayed for the lost (John 17:21) and his enemies at the cross. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” (Luke 23:34).

May our Lord give you the strength to do the right thing in the right spirit. May he lead you to your knees to pray for the very ones who seek to hurt you, fire you, or malign your character. May you know Jesus in this dying-to-self-act. May this experience be repeated in your life and leave you forever changed as it has changed me.

The Dynamic Gospel Encounter: John 12:35-36

This passage gives insight into the very nature of the gospel encounter. We see the genuine offer of the gospel, and the need and urgency to accept it, which the listeners can do; or they can reject it with full knowledge and remain in their sin.

“So Jesus said to them, For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light. These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them” (John 12:35-36). Continue reading →

Upon Whom Shall We Exercise Church Discipline?

I remember the first time we implemented church discipline in my former church. It was the greatest spiritual challenge the church had faced. The process took over a year, and it ended with a young lady having to be removed and others leaving because of her removal.

But that was not to be the end of the story. Sometime later, I received a call from the young lady. She said she needed to come and repent before the church. She came and shared her story. She told how she had been saved subsequent to being disciplined by our church, and that it was the discipline of the church that God used to bring her to that salvation. She said she had always gotten away with everything she wanted a pattern developed because of a lack of parental and self-discipline. The church had made her really examine her life and through that, she came to realize that she was not a true Christian. Correspondingly, she bowed her heart before our wonderful Lord, and He gloriously saved her. We welcomed her back to the Lord’s Table and the fellowship of the body.

What prompted her to feel compelled to come to the church and apologize was, no less, the hand of God. After being saved, and a year before she came back to our church, she went on a mission trip. While there God burdened her heart for the mission field. Just before she called our church, she was preparing to return to the mission field, but, as she said, “God would not let her.” She relayed how God kept convicting her that she had to get things right with the church that disciplined her before He would provide for her and use her in missions.

Out of her new desire to follow God, she came back to the church and repentantly apologized and asked for forgiveness, which was joyously granted. She shared how hard the discipline was to go through, but she had also come to realize we had done the right thing. This was a wonderful ending to the difficult task of church discipline. God granted redemption that was directly related to the church discipline. Discipline is extraordinarily difficult but can be eternally liberating.

If we practice church discipline, the question of where shall we start, and with whom shall we stop shall surely arise. It is evident there must be some appropriate candidates for church discipline or Jesus would not have commanded the church to practice discipline (Matt 18:15–20). It is equally apparent the church should not discipline everyone who sins. For that would result in the demise of the church since all who are a part of the church have sinned and still do.

There are four categories of behavior that make someone a candidate for church discipline. If a person continues unrepentantly in sin, this results in formal church discipline, and removal from the fellowship. This article considers specifically the process of discipline that can result in formal church discipline rather than the many facets of church discipline that encompass all of church life that everyone experiences. Some people exhibit behavior that is annoying, draining, embarrassing, and mildly disruptive, but not worthy of discipline. Rather, they require patience, love, endurance, and discipleship. These individuals’ sins, in and of themselves, could be serious enough to warrant disfellowshiping, but the person’s repentance makes it unnecessary. They are repentant, willing to seek counsel, and sincerely believe what they profess about Jesus; they are simply spiritually weak.

People who are candidates for discipline are the ones who unrepentantly persist in their sin, refusing counsel and admonishment. The Bible determines what sin is and which sins are worthy of church discipline, and the church is to carry out the commands of her Lord. Every individual will determine how he responds to discipline. In other words, it is not always the sin that is determinate, but rather the person’s response to the counsel or reality of his sin. Two people may be guilty of the same flagrant sin, but one responds to counsel by repenting and the other does not. Only the latter is, if he continues in unrepentance, ultimately removed from the fellowship.

The first candidates are immoral members of the church

This is precisely what Paul wrote about in the church of Corinth (1 Cor 5:1–13). Immorality is that which violates the moral prescriptions of Scripture. However, as we too well know, we all struggle with sin. Consequently, it is not only the sin per se, but most importantly, it is the person’s willingness to repent. Repentance stops the escalation of the discipline process before it reaches removal (Matt 18:15–20).

The second genre of candidates for church discipline is the doctrinal deviate

When someone is found to be teaching false doctrine, they must be dealt with and dealt with decisively. That is what Paul practiced and instructed the young pastor Timothy to do. “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:18–20, italics added). Paul handed Alexander and Hymenaeus over to Satan, just as he did with the man involved in immorality (1 Cor 5:5).

A caveat is in order here. Dealing with heresy is not equivalent to disciplining everyone who says something unorthodox or the leadership disagrees with. If the church is carrying out the Great Commission, there will always be those in the local church whose beliefs are not orthodox because that is the nature of babes in Christ. They may say things that make you cringe at times, but they simply are repeating what they have learned during a life of following themselves. Actually, all of us do this in varying degrees since we all are learning.

Additionally, minor disagreements over obscure passages are not grounds for discipline. Rather, it is the willful rejection of the obvious core truths of Scripture or seeking to corrupt the faith of others; however, the obvious and undeniable truth of Scripture does not have to be obvious and undeniable to the heretic. If that were the requirement of defining it, that would simply result in the non-existence of heresy or orthodoxy. The obvious and undeniable truth of Scripture is that which the leaders know, and that which is available to anyone with an open heart.

This may include the understanding of the leaders and church regarding major doctrines of the Scripture. Every church has the responsibility to define herself according to the church’s understanding of Scripture. Those who desire to be a part must do so within the theological parameters of the church.

The third candidate for church discipline is the person who sows discord

This person can inflict untold devastation upon a church, and just one person can sow the seeds for a church split. Admittedly, it does take others to join in order to successfully complete his spiritual coup d’état; nevertheless, the unsettling reality remains that it only takes one to sow the seeds of discord. Paul says the sower of discord follows his own lust rather than Christ and deceives the unsuspecting of the flock with flattery and smooth speech (Rom 16:17–8).

Of course, often such behavior is under the guise of loving Jesus and His church. If you are waiting for dissenters to wear a big sign that says “I sow discord”, you will continue to wait as they unleash their spiritual smart bombs upon the fellowship. God includes the sower of discord in the list of seven things He says He hates: “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov 6:16, 19).

Although everyone who sows discord may not be an apostate, his or her behavior parallels that of an apostate. Jude calls apostates “hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds” (Jude verse 12). Notice they are “hidden reefs;” you may not really know they are there until it is too late. Hidden reminds us again of their clandestine operations. Paul similarly warned the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:28–30). Jude warns, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed” (Jude verse 4, italics added). A significant part of these people’s insidiousness is their ability to conceal what they really are.

The words “caring for themselves” are a translation of the word poimaino, which is translated in other places as shepherd or pastor. In other words, these people pastor themselves. They are not under the authority of God’s leadership, and thus they are not under God, even though they parade themselves to be super spiritual. They are “clouds without water” (Jude verse 12), which pictures their deceptive nature and cunning escapades and spiritual bankruptcy. That they shepherd themselves becomes glaringly and painfully evident when things do not go their way.

The fourth recipient of church discipline is the disorderly disciple (2 Thess 3:6, 1–15)

Commentators are divided over whether this passage teaches church discipline, including formal church discipline, or just a form of social ostracizing. All things considered, I think it is best and most natural to take the passage to mean church discipline, which includes formal church discipline if the sinning brother does not heed godly instruction. Three things in the context seem to support this interpretation.

First, the phrases “keep aloof from” (verse 6) and “do not associate with him” (verse 14) are best understood as formal discipline. Further, the verb stello “keep aloof” is in the present tense, signifying continuous action of avoiding. In the latter phrase, “do not associate with him” (verse 14), the word “associate” is a translation of sunanamignusthai. It means “to associate with one another, normally involving spatial proximity and/or joint activity, and usually implying some kind of reciprocal relation or involvement to be in the company of, to be involved with, association.”[1] Being preceded by “do not” and in the present tense signifies a continuous action of not being involved with or keeping company with. Another evidence that this includes formal church discipline is the fact that sunanamignusthai is the exact same word and form that is used of church discipline in 1 Cor 5:9–11, which is clearly referring to formal church discipline.

Second, the direct intention of the discipline was “so that he may be put to shame” (verse 14). A true believer will feel shame when the entire local body confronts him with his sin and the wrongness of his actions. He also will feel ashamed because His Lord has forbidden him to have a part in the life of His church (at least until he properly repents), which has to bring enormous shame upon any child of God. The third reason for understanding the passage to include formal church discipline is the full consideration of the charge against them. The word unruly (verse 6) is from the Greek word ataktos which encompasses more than idle. It is defined as “disorderly, out of ranks (often so of soldiers), irregular, inordinate, immoderate pleasures, deviating from the prescribed order or rule.”[2]

Also, the context seems to support understanding it as unruly or undisciplined while recognizing that the most prominent fault is idleness. Michael Martin notes, “In the verses we find that the atakoi were brothers (verse 15) who were living contrary to apostolic teaching (verses 6, 10), contrary to the apostolic example of hard work and self-support (verses 7-9), and disrupting the church as busybodies (verse 12).”[3] Now, whether one views the problem as idleness or unruliness, it must not be forgotten that the root problem is the same here as in the other passages concerning church discipline. It is refusing to obey the instructions of the Word of God from the Lord Jesus Christ, and heed the reproof of the church.

Therefore, whether someone is disciplined because of immorality, heresy, sowing discord, or a bad testimony in the community, the underlying problem is a recalcitrant spirit because formal church discipline is only enacted in the absence of repentance. A professed believer who lives a life that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture diminishes the holiness of the church, the testimony of the church, and his own spiritual progress; consequently, he must be dealt with according to the scriptural teaching of loving discipline. In this situation, the problem is in part idleness, but it could be someone who does not provide for his family, is involved in shady business dealings, or other such unruly behavior.

Paul also includes two well-needed caveats. The first one admonishes the brethren not to “grow weary of doing good” (verse 13). My experience over the last thirty-five years of practicing church discipline has been that each situation generally takes six months to three years. Done properly, in love and prayer, it is quite grueling. Additionally, once people have been taken advantage of by others, they can grow cold toward helping others. Paul may also have had in mind the potential discouragement that comes after discipling someone only to see him squander his work away. This can tempt Christians to believe their work was in vain or that they failed, and this results in a loss of passion for discipleship. The main idea is not to let those who will not follow Christ keep you from following Him.

The other caution is “yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (verse 15). Those who see this passage as excluding formal discipline base some of their understanding on this verse. They posit you cannot admonish someone if you disfellowship him. This is an egregious error. While it is not appropriate to seek fellowship which undermines the action of the church and the disciplined person having to face their sin, it is in fact always appropriate to go to a lost person to seek to win him to Christ, which is what the one under discipline may very well be. It is equally appropriate to approach brothers or sisters in order to admonish them to repent and follow Christ. Admonishing a brother along the way is a valuable part of church discipline.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, electronic edition of the 2nd edition (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), s.v. “sunanamignusthai.”
[2] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Test of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, electronic edition (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), s.v. “unruly.”
[3] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 287.

The Practical Reasons for the Banishment of Church Discipline Answered

I have practiced church discipline for over thirty years, and here are some of the practical reasons often posed to me against the practice of church discipline.

It was abused in the past

When the subject of church discipline surfaces, someone will inevitably point to the abuses of the past as reason enough to squelch the whole conversation and move on to something more palatable. It is an undeniable fact that there have been abuses in the past. George Davis writes, “A perusal of old church minutes would tend to justify the claim that in the past church discipline was often wrongly motivated and sometimes concerned with petty matters.”[1] A classic example of abuse is when Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) forced Henry IV to stand as a penitent in the snow outside the castle at Canossa begging the Pope to cancel his excommunication.[2] Continue reading →

Liberated through Discipline: The Five Kinds of Discipline

The term discipline, both in the Bible and in everyday usage, displays various nuances depending on the particular biblical or life context. The ideas communicated by discipline are that of chastening, instruction, nurturing, training, correction, reproof, and punishment. In the negative sense, the idea of punishment is most prominent. In the positive sense, things like nurturing, training, and instruction come to mind. However, since all discipline is based on the perfect character of God, all discipline is actually positive even though it is not always immediately apparent. Just as the Scripture says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). The reality is that discipline and discipleship are so closely connected that to minimize discipline is to minimize discipleship. Lynn Buzzard notes, “To separate discipling from discipline is not only to tear words from their etymologically common roots, but also from their organic relationship.”[1] Continue reading →